McCoy’s Creek Trail extension funded by Michigan DNR, trail to be built in 2023

Published 1:01 pm Friday, December 23, 2022

BUCHANAN — The City of Buchanan announced today that it has received a commitment of an additional $300,000 from the Michigan DNR Natural Resources Trust Fund which is the last necessary piece of funding in order to move the McCoy Creek’s Trail Extension to River St. Joe Brewery to implementation. 

Buchanan’s grant application was ranked in scoring as third out of 100 submittals submitted from across the state.  

“The City of Buchanan is thrilled to receive this last piece of funding which will make our vision of an extended trail into a reality, and deliver more health, quality of life, and economic benefits to our community and the region, said Community Development Director Rich Murphy. “Everybody loves this project. The trail extension will take you from our beautiful historic downtown, through the wilderness, across the river, to a trail head at the only organic brewery in Michigan, River St. Joe Brewery at Flatwater Farms.” 

The McCoy’s Creek Trail Extension project is being led by a coalition of community leaders including Jerry Flenar and Don Brooks of Friends of McCoy‘s Creek Trail, Suzannah Deneau of Wightman & Associates, Brian Dougherty of River St. Joe Brewery, and Kris Martin and Brandon Kovnat of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission with support of the Buchanan City Commission and the Buchanan Township Board. 

Multiple funding sources on the federal, state, and local level are being pursued for the project. 

The successful grant application states: We believe our project is highly competitive and will be a catalyst to spur other economic and quality of life benefits and opportunities. What other project with just one new half mile trail extension can “knit together” so many high quality and significant cultural assets and experiences into one? With the connections this trail extension creates between historic and architecturally significant assets, walkable arts and culture experiences, special experiences in adjacent natural resources, and organic, farm to table dining and leisure activities, as well as Flatwater Farm’s sustainable program of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) — the McCoy’s Creek Trail Extension Project essentially elevates the existing trail into “Cultural Trail Status” and creates a “Walkable Treasure Trove” that will be of regional significance. 

“The trail extension will allow historic downtown Buchanan to leverage itself as a conduit to Pure Michigan by creating a non-motorized connection to high quality ‘green and blue trails activities’ including fishing, boating, kayaking at Buchanan public access areas on the river as well as destination dining and leisure experiences at River St. Joe Brewery and the Community Supported Agriculture program at Flatwater Farms,” Murphy said. “Further, downtown Buchanan will connect itself to “the Gateway to Michigan Wine Country” and other burgeoning afro-tourism opportunities. The “big picture” is that the trail extension sets up the opportunity for a trail connection all the way to Niles, taking a large leap forward to the vision of a regionalized trail system.”

“We are so happy and thankful to see that Michigan DNR partners support our vision with this large investment in Buchanan,” Flenar said. 

Flenar has led a robust campaign to solicit funders in order to implement the project. 

“There has been overwhelming support by community and stakeholder groups for the trail,” Flenar said. “In addition to these grant commitments, the funding team has secured pledges of support from the following community entities: Michigan Gateway Foundation, Buchanan Township, McCoy’s Creek Trail Committee, River St. Joe Brewery, Honor Credit Union, Cannavista Wellness, RMC Corporation, The Buchanan Scarecrow Charities, County Heritage Credit Union, McCarty Well Drilling, Hilltop Restaurant, Red Bud Hardware, State Farm Insurance, Buchanan Lions Club, United Federal Union, and the City of Buchanan. We also acknowledge the sizeable easement that will be provided by Fran Tuite, owner of Flatwater Farms, required for this project.”

“This was the last piece we needed. Now it’s time to build a trail,” said Mayor Sean Denison. “This is an investment in future generations. We are honored to be working with our state and local partners to achieve this vision. We estimate that 75 percent of the City of Buchanan’s 4,500 residents live within walking distance of the existing trail. More trail users result in more community health benefits as well as significant added value to economic opportunities and quality of life enhancements.”

The existing McCoy’s Creek Trail is an approximately five-mile improved shared use path that runs along McCoy’s Creek, through prairie, downtown Buchanan, and E.B. Clark Woods. It includes historical markers and natural elements that tell the history of Buchanan and the region. The McCoy’s Creek Trail Extension Project would extend the existing McCoy’s Creek Trail a half-mile along Schirmer Parkway, down River Street across River Street Bridge and into Buchanan Township. This extension would not only provide recreational opportunities, but also much needed alternative transportation options for residents and visitors to the region. Additional benefits include healthy lifestyle promotion, handicap accessibility, tourism/economic development, improved air quality, stronger community connections, and a great enhancement to our region’s overall quality of life. 

This Extension Project is the necessary first step down the path to connect Buchanan, MI – the southern and eastern gateway to a tourism center in Southwest Michigan — to the extensive and developed regional trail system, the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail. The project is planned for construction in 2023-24.